Managing magpie geese on your orchard

With the start of the wet season around the corner, and magpie geese flocking back into the Top End, we spoke to Parks and Wildlife about the ins and outs of magpie goose control in your farm or orchard. Tracey Duldig is the Assistant Director of Wildlife Operations for the Parks and Wildlife Commission, and Sally Heaton is the Manager of Wildlife Use and Pest Animals, with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Sally, do you have much to do with magpie geese management in your role?

My role is mainly to implement and manage the “Management Program for the Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) in the Northern Territory of Australia 2009-2014”.  This includes conducting the yearly aerial surveys and collating information for annual population estimates, and declaring dates and daily bag limits for the waterfowl hunting season.

Parks and Wildlife issue the permits for the taking of protected wildlife including the waterfowl hunting permits and the damage mitigation permits available to farmers. The Wildlife Operations team also regulate the activities under these permits and investigate if there are any permit breaches.

If a grower is having trouble with magpie geese damaging their crop how would they go about applying for a permit to control?

In regards to damage mitigation permits– anyone can apply and permits are free. However, applicants need to demonstrate:

  • That there is a genuine need and that the animals are causing damage, and the economic impact of the damage.
  • What other non-lethal techniques that have been tried and will continue to be used to deter the wildlife before applying for a permit to take wildlife.
  • What their capacity to undertake these activities are (i.e. do they have the enough personnel with the correct licenses and training to shoot geese?).

When an application from a farmer to take magpie geese is received it is sent through to the wildlife operations team for assessment and comment. The team may contact the applicant for more details and/or visit the farm and make recommendations before issuing the permit.

Is there a limit to the number of geese that can be shot under these permits?

Yes, there is a maximum total number of geese that will be allocated to farmers.

Do farmers have a choice about who to go through to control the geese?

People who hunt geese for recreational purposes or under a recreational permit may not be the best solution for farmers, as their main aim is to shoot geese to eat, not to deter them from your crop and change goose behaviour over the long-term. Farmers are the permit holder and must authorise people under the permit to shoot geese. Their names must be sent through to Parks and Wildlife before shooting commences.

If there was one main message to impart to growers about magpie goose control, what would it be?

The main message that we would like to get across to farmers is that putting a new “food” source close to wildlife habitat will lead to certain wildlife species utilising this food source and unless crops are netted there will be some losses. Permits to take protected wildlife (damage mitigation permits) are designed to deter pests and should be used as such. If other deterrent means have been tried and are not working and it is decided that shooting is necessary, farmers should look at the times of day when geese are arriving at the farm and try to target the lead birds only. Shooting lots of birds once the flock has settled into an area is not efficient, sustainable or an effective means of control.

Last updated: 02 October 2017